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Yoga Postures from Hathayoga Pradipika

हठस्य प्रथमांगत्वादासनम पूर्वमुच्यते।
कुर्यात्तदासनम स्थैर्यमारोग्यम चांगलाघवम॥

Before anything else asana forms the first limb of Hatha Yoga. By the practice of asana steadiness, health and lightness is gained.

वाशिष्ठाद्येश्च मुनीभिर्मत्स्येंद्राद्येश्च योगिभिः।
अंगीकृतान्यासनानी काथ्यते कानिचिन्मया॥

I will now explain some asanas accepted by munis such as Vashishtha and yogis such as Matsyendranatha.

Now, Yogi Swatmaram is explaining Asanas or Yoga Postures. Yoga postures are so common and popular that many people wrongly equate Hatha Yoga with these bodily postures. As mentioned by Yogi Swatmaram, Asanas are but one small part of Hatha Yoga. Nevertheless, they are important especially for beginner to intermediate level seeker.

At times people accuse Natha sect and Natha yogis of indulging too much in physical body. However, one must understand the reason and background behind this clearly. In very ancient times, the environment and food was quite pure. More importantly ancient sages and yogis used to take great care that impurities (physical, pranic and mental) are not being accumulated. However, the period of time this situation changed. People started becoming more materialistic. They started living for luxuries rather than spiritual upliftment. Condition of food and environment deteriorated. Matsyendranatha founded the Natha sect as a way for all irrespective of cast and creed. Naturally, people with various degrees of physical and mental purification started adopting Natha doctrine. For people who are full of impurities spiritual progress became difficult because of pranic and mental blockages. That is why Hatha Yogis give importance to bodily purification first. As per Shaiva and Natha doctrine, body is a temple of God and one must take care of it since it is a vehicle for further spiritual journey. Thus Asana forms the first limb of Hatha Yoga. It should be noted, however, that for a seeker who has already attained certain level of purification (by proper diet etc.) Asanas become less relevant though such a seeker may practice them for maintaining the bodily purity.

Yoga texts maintain that  Lord Shiva has given out 84 lakh asanas. This is also the number of yonis through which soul needs to pass before taking birth in human form. This number (84 lakh) is not just some random number. This number has been derived as follows:

No. of kalas or rashis of Sun X Days of a week (primary planets) X 1000 rays of Sun each acting in 100 ways*

i.e. 12 X 7 X 1000 X 100 = 84,00,000

(* The Sun and Moon has some co-relation with human body but I refrain from going into those details here.)

Out of these 84 lakh Yoga postures not all are equally important. In fact it is said that only Lord Shiva knows them all and only 84 are considered as important. Even out of these, Yogi Swatmaram has given details of only a few asanas. He says that his selection is acceptable to Munis such as Vashishtha and Yogis such as Matsyendranath. Vashishtha muni was a great yogi himself and was a teacher of Lord Rama. His teachings available as Yoga Vashishtha are very popular and considered an important work on Yoga. Yogi Swatmaram has made a distinction between Munis and Yogis though both of them are working towards the same goal. Generally munis are considered to be highly advanced on the spiritual path and are established in Jana Yoga too. Matsyendranatha was a great follower of Shiva doctrine who is considered as the founder of Natha sect. Some experts believe that Matsyendranatha freed Kundalini Yoga from the hands of cruel Tantriks and propagated this ritual free way of God-realization to people from all casts and creeds. Yogi Swatmaram has mentioned these two names to indicate that his selection is approved by great masters from Jana as well as Yoga streams.

Yogi Swatmaram also explains the chief benefits of asanas. The first benefit, he says, is steadiness of body. Higher practices of Kundalini Yoga such as meditation and Nadashravana require you to maintain a standstill body. If your body shakes or if you change the position frequently mind won't be able to focus on the object of meditation. You will be distracted every now and then. So, Kaya Sthairyam or steadiness of body is necessary.

Another benefit, especially important for modern age, is health. Yoga postures are different than exercises such as jogging in that they work on expansion-contraction principle rather than exhausting the practitioner. In the process they regulate the blood circulation, help destroy impurities accumulated in bodily systems (known as Ama in Ayurveda) and restore general well-being of the practitioner. Additionally, in order to practice them very little space is needed and there is no dependency on any other equipment. No wonder more and more people are taking to asanas throughout the world.

 Coupled with proper diet, asanas also make the practitioner light limbed. It is a common observation that obesity induces lethargy and laziness into the person. By the practice of asanas excess fat is reduced making the person fit and full of energy.

Though I am not going to discuss all the Yoga postures mentioned in Hathayoga Pradipika it would be worthwhile to have a quick glance at them:

  • Swastikasana
  • Gomukhasana
  • Veerasana
  • Koormasana
  • Kukkutasana
  • Uttankoormasana
  • Dhanurasana
  • Matsyendrasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Mayurasana
  • Siddhasana, Vajrasana, Muktasana, Guptasana
  • Padmasana
  • Simhasana,
  • Bhadrasana
  • Shavasana

Out of the above mentioned asanas the Siddhasana, Padmasana and Swastikasana are commonly used for meditation. Out of these three Siddhasana is supreme because it is conductive to Moolabandha and Kundalini awakening. One need not practice all these asanas. Select only those that you need and that you can practice. Do not put too much strain or pressure while going into any asana. Even if you cannot go in the final stage of an asana, you efforts themselves will bring good amount of benefits to you.


Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant, trainer, author, yoga mentor, and meditation teacher with over 24 years of experience in classical form of Yoga. He is an internationally published author and has authored or co-authored more than twelve books on .NET technologies. He has been awarded as a Most Valuable Professional by Microsoft. He has also written a few Marathi books including Devachya Davya Hati and Natha Sankentincha Danshu. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he also teaches Ajapa Yoga to selected individuals.

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Posted On : 20 April 2011


Tags : Yoga Hatha Yoga Kundalini Chakras Asanas Natha Scriptures

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